Show Posts

This section allows you to view all posts made by this member. Note that you can only see posts made in areas you currently have access to.

Topics - Skipx219

Pages: [1]
Hackensack Discussion / July 1, 1988 (Hackensack Ford Fire)
« on: June 30, 2013, 08:34:06 AM »
Hackensack tragedy from a quarter-century ago changed the way fires are fought
Sunday, June 30, 2013    Last updated: Sunday June 30, 2013, 9:14 AM
The Record   

Photos: Hackensack Ford dealership fire that killed 5 firemen 25 years ago

The deadly fire at Hackensack Ford on July 1, 1988, spurred reforms in fire safety standards.

Firefighters were devastated to learn that five of their comrades had died.

When firefighters responded to the Ford dealership on River Street in Hackensack 25 years ago, they did not know how deceptive the blaze would prove to be, nor how ill-equipped they were to fight it. They did not know that five of them would not survive.

That fateful day, July 1, 1988, the firemen rushed inside to knock down a fire they thought to be like any other they’d faced.

After 35 minutes, the dealership’s 60-ton bow-truss roof collapsed, killing three firefighters. Two others were trapped inside, radioing for help, but they could not be rescued before their air ran out.

Related: Anatomy of a fire (PDF)

It was one of the deadliest fires in Bergen County history, and it marked a turning point not only for Hackensack, but for fire service across the U.S. The Ford fire spurred reforms in safety, training and equipment, and highlighted the dangers of truss roofs in a fire. The lessons of Hackensack are now studied in firefighter classrooms from coast to coast and have been written into textbooks. Those lessons, experts say, certainly have saved lives.

For Hackensack firefighters, who will mark the anniversary Monday, that’s the one saving grace from an awful time in the department’s history.

“Sometimes it takes a tragedy to learn important lessons. I can’t say it was in vain. We didn’t only lose five brothers that day — we learned from them,” said Hackensack fire Capt. Marc Cunico.

Today, firefighters say they never would have gone into that building knowing what they know now: that a bow-truss roof, held aloft by horizontal bow-shaped supports — is prone to collapse in a fire.

“We’d ensure it was a defensive operation,” said Fire Chief Thomas Freeman, who helped fight the blaze that day. “We wouldn’t put anybody in harm’s way.”

The first firefighters arrived at the Ford dealership  at 3:01 p.m. and found smoke in the roof area, but the large dealership was clear of smoke and fire. The building had been evacuated of customers and staff. The firefighters climbed the roof and cut a hole to find fire in the attic space between trusses, but had a hard time reaching the flames.

The fire grew intense in the attic, where heavy auto parts and cleaning supplies were stored. Firefighters were ordered out at 3:34 p.m. The 60-ton roof collapsed about two minutes later, killing Capt. Richard Williams and Firefighters William Krejsa and Leonard Radumski, who were inside the building.

Lt. Richard Reinhagen and Firefighter Stephen Ennis had escaped to a tool closet and were trapped. They radioed for help for more than 10 minutes before running out of air. The single radio frequency firefighters used to communicate was overwhelmed and messages kept getting cut off.

A video from the scene shows very little smoke in the building interior, as firefighters point a hose on the building without any apparent sense of alarm. Because of communication problems, some firefighters didn’t know the roof had collapsed or that other firefighters were still inside.

At the time, only fire supervisors carried radios.

Freeman was directing a hose line at the back of the building with other firefighters when an off-duty New York City firefighter ran over and told them there were men trapped. “We gotta get them out,” Freeman recalled him saying.

They used battering rams and sledgehammers to break through the cinderblock, but couldn’t reach the two trapped men in time.

“When we finally broke through it was like a furnace,” Freeman said.

Cunico, who was off duty that day, arrived at the scene around 6 p.m. “I walked into a surreal scene of chaos,” he said. “Firemen hanging their heads. They were obviously distraught and crying.”

Three investigations identified a litany of mistakes at the Ford fire, which officials said appeared to have been caused by an electrical failure in an attic fan or air conditioner. Fire officers should have recognized the bow-truss roof and its dangers and should have evacuated the building sooner. Ineffective command and poor communication also were to blame, investigators said. The most critical report concluded that the five men died “needlessly.”

The deaths thrust the department into despair, as the men went to funerals for co-workers who were like family.

Despite the criticism of the reports, the men who were there say they don’t blame anyone for the failures that day, including the chief and battalion chief who were sharply criticized for their handling of the fire.

“The normal procedure in 1988 for any fire was aggressive interior attack … drag the hose lines into the building and put out the fire. We were doing what we normally did on any given day,” Freeman said.

He described a different environment at that time.

“Back in the day, it wasn’t as common, the training wasn’t there, the information sharing wasn’t there. Nowadays you pull up to that kind of building and it stands out like a sore thumb,” he said.

Firefighter Bryan Brancaccio was on a tower ladder looking down on the dealership, trying to douse the flames, and saw the tangle of trusses and fire below where the roof had collapsed.

He said the loss left him in shock. “That’s 5 percent of the department and you know everybody personally.”

He harbored no hard feelings, he said. “They thought they were doing the right thing,” Brancaccio said.

As the firefighters endured, key changes were made.

The state passed a law requiring placards to be placed near building entrances to note whether the structure had a bow-truss roof — a measure that several other states later adopted.

Firefighters also began to study building construction as part of training, and in Hackensack, they go out on building inspections. They’re taught that buildings with any kind of truss construction can collapse from fire exposure in a short amount of time.

There were other fatal bow-truss fires — at a Waldbaum’s supermarket in New York City in 1978 that killed six, and another in a Cliffside Park bowling alley that killed five firemen in 1967. Roofs collapsed in both of those fires.

Hackensack’s was the one that resonated and became a turning point, in part because of heightened awareness in firefighter safety around that time. It’s the one taught in fire safety classes across the U.S.

“It’s in every major firefighting textbook in the country,” said Glenn Corbett, an associate professor of fire science at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and former assistant chief of the Waldwick Fire Department. “Hackensack is in the top 25 fires that have really had an impact on the fire service and in making firefighters safe.” Just the mention of the name “Hackensack,” Corbett said, conjures for firefighters the unseen dangers of that day.

As a result of Hackensack Ford and several other fires, it became commonplace for firefighters to carry PASS, or Personal Alert Safety Systems devices, which are clipped onto clothing or equipment and sound an alarm when they’re immobile, Corbett said.

Hackensack also helped to change attitudes, he said. For years, the fire service was reluctant to talk about or criticize fire response. But after Hackensack, fire officers were more willing to analyze and discuss response after an incident.

In Hackensack, firefighters carry radios with buttons that can be pressed when they’re in danger — which is common, but still not universal in fire departments. The fire service also began using two separate radio frequencies, one for dispatch and another for ground response. A dispatcher would also know and advise on the kind of building construction and whether hazardous materials are stored in a building.

Even with the changes, there is room for improvement, Corbett said. The fire service needs a more precise method to track the vertical and horizontal locations of firefighters in a building.

But the fire service, experts agree, is far improved.

In Hackensack, fire officials call it a “180-degree turnaround” where equipment is modern and effective and firefighters train every day.

Earlier this year, the city’s Fire Department earned a Class 1 fire protection grade, ranking the 99-member department among the best in the nation from the Insurance Services Office, a company that assesses fire risk.

Just 61 departments in the United States have a Class 1 rank out of more than 48,000 surveyed fire districts.

Hackensack fire officials credit hard work, training and dedication. The firefighters go out of their way to train on their own and show the new guys the ropes, Freeman said.

“They go above and beyond, and I think in the back of their minds it’s because they know what happened here in 1988,” he said.

On a recent Monday, Deputy Chief Stephen Kalman showed a video of the Ford fire to a new fireman, describing what happened and what went wrong that day. It’s a video they show to new recruits.

“Their sacrifices are not forgotten, and we try to pass that along to all the new members coming on the department,” Kalman said.

“We would not be this good of a department today, probably, if that fire didn’t happen and those guys didn’t pay for it with their lives.”

- See more at:

Hackensack Discussion / Old Oaks cut down on West Anderson St.
« on: April 15, 2013, 10:24:02 AM »
438 West Anderson St. The property was sold & the small cottage at the rear of the  lot, it appears, will be torn down...and I assume will, will have a new house built on it.
The new owner cut down 3 large old growth Oak which were originally part of Borg's Woods. The one in the front of the lot must be at least 150 years old by the look of the growth rings..the one at the rear left appears to be even old.

 I thought that they could have fit a house between the trees...the lot looks so barren.
My Grand Parents owned the cottage & the house at 440...and 438 was where my new Wife & I moved into when we married in 1969. That's why I have an interest in the property...not to create a problem for the new owner

Perhaps the Poster who follows the Trees in town may document the age of the trees

Hackensack Discussion / Curb & Re-paving of Northern Main St.
« on: September 21, 2011, 01:58:17 PM »
A Representative from Boswell Mc Clave Engineering stopped by my office with a flyer and to notify me & affected neighbors of the Curb & Repaving of Main St from Spring Valley to Route 4. I thought that a nice touch !! He answered all my questions about the project affecting my area of Main St. We will lose 2 parking spots to make way for a much needed crosswalk across Main St at Voorhis Pl.

The most burning question I had for him was " what does the symbol painted where Main St meets a cross street which reads..... LOM ^ LOP". He told me it meant
Limit of Mill ^ Limit of Pave " I just thought some of you might want to know what it meant. It drove me crazy !!

Hackensack Discussion / Hackensack Ave Construction ?
« on: March 18, 2011, 11:43:03 AM »
Does anyone know what all the action is that's going on in the Target parking lot. There are a lot Trailers in a fenced in area.

Across the street at 56 Hackensack Ave they are tearing down the old house where
" Physic Sarah " place was. Will it be a vacant lot or is something going to be built ?
Thanks Gene " Skip "

Hackensack Discussion / Jerry's BBQ - 836 Main St.
« on: July 07, 2010, 01:13:19 PM »
I have a new neighbor... Jerry's BBQ at 838 Main St. It's where Manley's Deli, Al's Deli, Wrap & Roll Deli and El Toreon was.  I tried the " All the way Dog " is Onions, Mustard and special sauce. It was good and I enjoyed the sauce. There was a Guy there who enjoyed the Skirt Steak & asked what the Marinade was.

Hackensack Discussion / Solar powered street lights
« on: January 13, 2010, 11:09:31 AM »
It appears that PSE&G are installing Solar Powered Street Light Heads on Main St from Spring Valley Rd.
north towards Route 4 today.  ???

Hackensack Discussion / Fairmount Lumber
« on: March 16, 2009, 11:58:14 AM »
 I passed by there yesterday and there is a sign stating that there will be an Auction for a " Complete Liquidation " on Thurday, April 16 2009.

 Not sure if the property is to be sold as well.

 Gene " Skip "

With the estimate to correct our Combination Sanitary & Storm Water System at 7M - 14M or 405M, I hope our City Officials are talking to someone in the know to get part of the Stimulus Package.

If we don't the help now, it will be a huge burden latter.

If you print them out they're easier to read.

Gene " Skip

Pages: [1]